Dennis Knight obituary

Other lives: Talented professional musician of the concert hall and the opera

My father, Dennis Knight, who has died at the aged 87, was a musician of many talents, starting his professional life as a concert pianist and moving into opera.

Born in Sunderland, he began to play the piano at the age of 11 and in 1943 won a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Solo engagements at a number of concert halls followed, including the Royal Albert Hall, where he played Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto. Alongside performing and accompanying, he taught music at various schools, including Sloane grammar, Chelsea, where one of his pupils was the future Labour MP Alan Johnson, as mentioned in Johnson's memoir, This Boy. He also directed the Grosvenor Light Opera and Enfield Grand Opera groups.

In 1965, Dennis joined the Royal Opera House, where he stayed for 26 years, first as assistant chorus master and then as a répétiteur, working with some of the top singers and conductors. Following his retirement, he worked for Floral Opera, part of the Royal Opera House's educational programme, for several years. Helping singers, both professional and amateur, was his passion, and he was talented at bringing out the best in both individuals and groups.

Dennis was a spiritual man, finding interest and comfort in esoteric religion and philosophy. He was a skilled raconteur – his telling of anecdotes, often about the opera world, was renowned. He was kind, charming and warm; also, at times, impatient and argumentative, reflecting his great enthusiasm and zest for life. He loved to watch and play football and cricket and was an avid follower of Sunderland Football Club. One of our abiding childhood memories was celebrating with him Sunderland's victory over Leeds in the 1973 FA Cup final. He would often take us in the park to play football, cricket or tennis, and also taught us the piano.

In recent years, Dennis's health started to decline but, despite increasing dementia and frailty, he continued to coach singers and play the piano. Recently he managed to play Beethoven's Pathétique Piano Sonata to me, a memory I will always cherish.

Dennis is survived by his wife, Judith, his sons, Timothy and Simon, his granddaughters, Frances, Anna and Erika, and me.

Abigail Knight

The GuardianTramp

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